If you’re looking for Jason Kander’s ideas about lowering water rates or increasing Kansas City’s stock of affordable housing, you won’t find them in his new book, due out Aug. 7.
“Outside The Wire: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned in Everyday Courage” was locked in galleys while he still aspired to be a player 2020 presidential campaign — not a candidate for mayor in 2019.
Still, the 220-page memoir, which weaves together stories of his military and political careers, offers a few biographical nuggets not widely known about the Kansas City native who served two terms in the Missouri House and one term as Missouri secretary of state.
Kander is the city’s ninth mayoral candidate and officially announced his candidacy Saturday, July 14.
1. Coming home from Afghanistan was difficult. Kander saw no combat in his four-month deployment as an Army intelligence officer in 2006, but returned to Kansas City with anger issues, nightmares and guilt about those he’d left behind in the war zone (“Outside the wire” is military lingo for the area beyond the safety of a base camp or other secure installation).
In Afghanistan his biggest fear was kidnapping. “Now that I was back in my own bed, it seemed that the Taliban captured me every night,” he said.
Kander said he got professional help and concluded that he was likely not suffering from post-traumatic stress. But he learned about the emotional toll of what mental health experts call “battlemind,” the process of constantly preparing for the possibility of death.
2. Sly James was an early mentor. Kander and the mayor are long-time political allies, but his book fills out some of the back story. When businessman Steve Kander heard his 15-year-old son express interest in becoming a lawyer, he introduced him to James.
Years later, bored and frustrated with his white-shoe corporate law practice, Kander weighed moving to a smaller plaintiff’s firm but was unsure about leaving behind the salary and security.
He sought out James, who’d made the jump before him. James told Kander he was indeed walking away from a lot of money. But, he said, “It won’t be long before you have a car accident case where you get an insurance company to pay your client $25,000, and when you call to tell your client about it they’ll start crying because you will have changed their life for ever.”
According to Kander, “Sly paused for effect, then nonchalantly added, ‘Your call, kid. Do what you think is right.’”
3. Dogged pursuit of votes: While door-knocking during first campaign for state representative, Kander’s wife Diana or a staffer would record the names of voters’ dogs. They’d be mentioned in mailed, handwritten follow-up notes (“’Say hi to Lucy for me!’”)
Kander also recalled how his wife Diana had to laugh hundreds of times at the same lame joke as if it were the first time she’d heard it.
“’Where do you live?’ a voter would ask, to which I’d reply, ‘On Ward Parkway, half a million dollars south of Gregory.’”
4. He shoplifted as a middle-schooler. Kander said he was egged on by friends who were stealing candy bars. He took a necktie from an unnamed department store. “Was I destined to be a nerd or what?” he said. Kander said he never did it again, but didn’t return the tie.
5. A serious Taco Bell fan. As a high-schooler and college student he craved Santa Fe Beef Gorditas. “Sorry, Jason sometimes moans when he eats Taco Bell,” a college friend explained to those eating with him.
Kander ramped back when he joined the Army, but still occasionally rewards himself. He urged Taco Bell to bring back the Santa Fe style, which it discontinued years ago.
“Gorditas are so dang good,” he said.